Depression, Anxiety and ADHD
I come here to Medium when I have a story to tell, one I hope finds other people and helps them in the ways that I have been helped.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety and major depression. It was one of the major turning points in my life. I mean, it wasn’t fun or particularly thrilling. But it was an opportunity to learn more about myself.
Then, armed with my medication and therapy, my life started to improve. But there were things that were still harder than I felt they should be. It was hard to pinpoint it but it just seemed as though I waded through life with weights around my legs. I could manage — I am strong — but it was hard, unreasonably so.
During the lockdown in 2020/2021, I eventually caved and downloaded TikTok. Something to do during my increasingly bad insomnia. (Insomnia is one of the things that sends me over the edge. It’s especially bad when I’m stressed and guess what? A global pandemic is quite stressful. Anyway, I digress.)
After a while on TikTok enjoying the teenagers doing dances I could never hope to copy and watching people lipsync comedians I love, I landed, as the kids say, on ADHD-Tok.
More specifically, on women in their 30s and 40s who have recently been diagnosed with ADHD.
It was like a light came on in my head.
I absorbed this content voraciously, and the TikTok algorithm, bless its little AI soul, gave me more. I found creators like Catiosaurus, Domestic Blisters, HowToADHD, ConnorDeWolfe, EmbracingDivergence, JesseJAnderson, ComfortAndKindness, and so so many more.
There were so many stories that were so similar to mine.
Girls growing up good at school but terrible at homework. Great at some things but horrible at anything that was boring or frustrating (hello, have you ever done maths? Boring, difficult AND frustrating.)
I grew up with people getting frustrated with me, being called lazy and unproductive, and wondering why I couldn’t do the things that everyone else did, things I wanted to do. My room was never clean — my HOUSE is never clean — until I literally can’t cope anymore and then I blitz it. Then it gets dirty again in a neverending spiral. And so much more.
So, after a couple of months of inhaling ADHD content, I took it to my psychiatrist. I was prepared for her to laugh and tell me that no, I am probably just lazy and very possibly a hypochondriac. But she didn’t. She said that she had suspected it as soon as I had walked in that day. That the fact that my brain moved at 300 miles a minute, I dart from topic to topic, that I forget what I’m saying halfway through a sentence, and so many other things point towards ADHD. She had been about to bring it up with me but I brought it up myself.
I’m not hyperactive, at least, not in the way you expect from someone with ADHD. My brain is constantly on the move, so much so that it exhausts me completely and I lack the energy to actually move my body even as much as I am supposed to. I am mentally hyperactive, constantly skipping from topic to topic in my head, never resting on anything, always worrying about something, always hopping three steps ahead of even myself.
Undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD is often a part of what makes anxiety and depression so bad.
Now that I have medication available, but also now that I have unlocked this part of myself I was unaware of, I can learn to manage it and mitigate its difficult effects.
The medication is a miracle. I have space in my head. My thoughts don’t race. I can do boring, tedious tasks without getting distracted every two minutes. I can plough through work in the way I could only do when I was seriously interested (hi, have you met the hyper-focus part of ADHD? It’s wild.)
My ADHD diagnosis is absolutely game-changing in a way that my neurotypical family and friends don’t seem to understand.
Girls and women with ADHD don’t present in the same way as boys and men do. We learn so many coping mechanisms and develop unbridled anxiety to manage all of the ways in which our brains are different just to cope in society. But we are TIRED. SO VERY TIRED. It is absolutely exhausting fighting your brain all day, every day just to function in a society that isn’t set up for us.
And so, in closing, what I hope is that knowing what I now know about my own brain, I will be more able to spot it in the people around me, in my child and so on. I hope that, by telling my story, I can lead other people, especially other women and girls, to figure out their own brains.
There is help out there. Not everyone needs or wants medication (not all the medication works for every person) but there is help available. You deserve to know as much as you can about your own brain, your own body. I can’t tell you how much it helps.